Jeff Lowe is considered one of the pioneers of waterfall and alpine ice climbing in North America. Jeff’s climbing career spans six decades and he is known for his visionary climbs and alpine style philosophy. He has made over 1,000 first ascents.
In 2014, he was in Banff celebrating the North American premiere of his new film Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia. Gripped’s Brandon Pullan caught up with Jeff and his partner Connie Self in the Lloyd Hall, two days after the film’s debut. Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia is a film like no other.
The film covers some of Jeff’s most impressive ascents over the years, but unlike many over-the-top commercialized, corporate sponsored films, it has a deeply moving human story. Jeff, Connie and filmmaker Jim Aikman have combined three very different approaches to create what is one of the best mountain films of the decade.
After the screening, the audience jumped to their feet and gave Jeff one of the most heart-felt standing ovations the Banff Centre had ever had.
The emotional story told in Jeff’s film include the the details of his debilitating disease, which is similar to MS and ALS. The disease has left Jeff with limited motor skills and nearly no ability to speak.
Jeff uses an Ipad with an application that allows him to type and the computer does the talking for him. Despite losing so many of his freedoms, he remains positive and optimistic. His voice might be missing, but his heart and soul seem more alive than ever.
Jeff climbed Metanoia on the Eiger in the early 1990s, when he was going through personal hardships, a divorce and financial problems. He spent nine days on the north face of the Eiger. The route has not been repeated, despite a number of attempts, including a few by Ueli Steck.
Jeff left his pack on the last pitch and nearly 20 years after the ascent, Josh Wharton found and returned it. It’s all in the film. “Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia is a film about one man’s journey from the top of the world to the end of the line.
Jeff’s life and climbing career are one of the most impressive of any climber. He climbed the Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton at the age of seven and in 1971 he made the first ascent of the now-famous Moonlight Buttress with Mike Weis.
A year later, along with his brother and founder of Lowe Alpine, Greg, he made the first winter ascent of the west face of Grand Teton. In 1974, again with Mike Weis, Jeff made the first ascent of the classic ice route Bridal Veil Falls.
Other ice/mixed routes by Jeff include Bird Brain Boulevard and Octopussy, which is the route Jeff is climbing on the cover of his book Ice World. The 1996 publication about techniques and experiences of modern ice climbing would end up on the shelves of almost every ice climbing in North America as the quintessential book on technical winter climbing.
In Canada, Jeff made the first ascent of the world-famous Grand Central Couloir with Mike Weis in 1975. The route had been attempted by some of the world’s best alpine climbers for a half-a-decade before Jeff used his alpine-style approach to make the bold first ascent.
Pullan asked Jeff how his drive up the Icefields Parkway was. Jeff revealed details about one of his new routes that went unreported. Jeff wrote his answer on his Ipad. Not wanting to take a word away, here is the full answer.
“It was fantastic, as it always has been. Heading out of Banff is heading for adventure. Unfortunately, I am the world’s slowest human. We had a late start and only got to Epaullette. I wanted Connie to see some of these old Rockies routes in person and tell her the stories. My brother Greg was along, too, to share in the reminiscences.
“Mike Weis was my partner on Epaullette, which we climbed in 1973 and never reported or wrote up. It was actually a good climb. A 3,500 foot (1,200-metre) face with decent rock and ice and interesting route finding.
“We left the Parkway at dawn one summer morning, started down and a beautiful black wolf met us at the river crossing. We found our way through the woods to the base of the wall and spent the rest of the day having great fun on the climb and bivouacked on the summit. A classic Canadian Rockies adventure. You can be the first to report it, in Gripped!”
When asked about his new film, Lowe wrote, “Yes, I’m happy with the film on many levels. As an interpersonal experience with a long run of amazing, impassioned people, led by Connie, and in the end, Jim Aikman.
“In the end, it’s a film that is full of inspiring, emotional content and judging by the response of the audience at the premiere, it works very well. It’s a better film than I would have made, because Connie and especially Jim’s direction.
“To be so completely surrounded and engulfed by the love of the worldwide tribe of adventure lovers is such an empowering experience it’s impossible to describe.
“It’s beyond humbling, which implies an ego to be humbled. The love carries me so far beyond myself – to the place I want to be – that space where I no longer exist, it’s all energy, wonder and a holographic, kaleidoscopic, universal reality.”